|The Walking Dead: No Time Left|
|Platforms||Windows, OSX, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, iOS|
|Buy from Amazon|
The finale to the first episodic season of The Walking Dead has arrived, and after the shocking conclusion to the fourth episode, it was apparent just how No Time Left would end. Of course, getting there is never straightforward in The Walking Dead universe.
This final review will be rather spoilerific after the cut, so there’s your first warning. It would be massively difficult to talk about the season as a whole without talking about the characters and their relationships, the real core to The Walking Dead. It’s funny: comparing it to my earlier episodic gaming experience, Tales of Monkey Island, and while I’m going to end up awarding them identical scores, it’s for completely different reasons and I feel totally different about each experience. My thoughts are also a lot more complicated when it comes to The Walking Dead.
So with that, let’s talk Lee, Clementine, and the end of the world.
I’ll get my one and only major complaint out of the way first, but it also mostly has to do with the opening of the episode anyway. For the first half of No Time Left, the game feels like it’s lacking much of the momentum you would expect from the final episode. Clementine has been kidnapped, the city is being overrun by zombies, Lee has been bit, and the group has been splintered apart, but the remaining gang just does a whole lot of yapping instead of doing.
There’s a brief bit of excitement when they help cut Lee’s arm off (what an intense scene, and Lee does it himself if he didn’t bring any friends!), then more downtime. Followed by a return to the house with a short firefight, then more sitting around before the final trek begins. I know that The Walking Dead has never been about constant excitement, or even 50% excitement, but I kept waiting for No Time Left to actually earn its name.
But the journey to the Marsh House is a good one, slowly first across the rooftops, with a whole lot of narrow footbridges along the way, and then the final berserker sprint through the final street, instantly becoming one of the most epic gaming moments in all of 2012. Friends are shed along the way, most notable the loss of Kenny, Lee's star-crossed bromance friend. I had personally dropped Ben from the belltower last episode, so in No Time Left, Kenny saved Christa, who he knew was pregnant with Omid’s child.
This was a tough loss for me as it was unexpected but understandable. I figured Kenny and Lee would be arguing to the bitter end, but it almost felt a bit unceremonious. I watched his alternate death on Youtube (where he attempts to save Ben) and felt similarly. I suppose there aren’t a lot of dragged out deaths in the zombie apocalypse.
I really liked the final few conversations Lee had with Christa and Omid, they were not only the only people left in the entire world Lee knew who were alive, but they were a young, stable couple who could be great parents to Clementine. Their excitement at the plan only made that post-credits scene that much more difficult. “Clementine, why didn’t you go to the train? Is that Omid and Christa up on the ridge? God, knowing this game, it’s probably those cannibal farm brothers I left alive in Starved for Help.”
But Lee is alone for the final confrontation against The Stranger, and while this face-off should feel totally undeserving of any kind of “final boss” quality, his explanation of what has brought a father to kidnapping a young girl is enough to paint him as a man who may actually have a point. A point I wholeheartedly disagree with - Clementine is mine, even if I only have hours to live - but a point, nonetheless. I think it’s actually unwarranted to make him totally insane by having him carry around his wife’s zombified head in a bowling bag, to me it undercuts the seriousness behind the idea that maybe Lee hasn’t been the best guardian for Clementine the last few months.
The QTE struggle with The Stranger was, of course, about as lame as you would expect, but apparently I wasn’t quick enough with one of the taps because Clementine ended up shooting his brains out instead of Lee finishing him off with a choke. I personally like the version I got better due to it wrapping up her training from Long Road Ahead.
Lee then slathers zombie guts all over Clementine in one final gross-out scene before we head back into the streets, but the shocks are still coming. I literally gasped when Clementine saw her parents, it was the perfect, devastating coda to what was obvious all along, but it still surprised me when she stopped walking. Lee collapses, and somehow Clementine manages to drag him out of the street and into what would become his final resting place.
There aren’t a lot of dragged out deaths in the zombie apocalypse, but Lee gets one in what is probably the most brutal, heartwrenching finale to a game I’ve ever seen since Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. We know he’s going to die, but Lee and Clementine have become father and daughter during the zompocalypse, and that makes asking Clementine to shoot Lee in the head so hard, yet so easy. I couldn’t let her see me become a zombie, even if this was just a game.
Slightly off pace in the first half, but a truly stellar ending to the first season of The Walking Dead. While I came to love Lee, Christa, Kenny, and Omid, their deaths and separation felt... right. Nothing is fair or kind in this kind of future, but come on, at least let Clementine find happiness!
Now that it’s over, I trust in the future I’ll have very similar feelings towards The Walking Dead as I did towards Heavy Rain. I love the emphasis towards the story and characters, and while I have no problem playing an interactive drama, I personally feel that with our current technology the genre has already peaked. The rough edges between “interactive” and “drama” are still mostly there, particularly in The Walking Dead’s awkward quick time events. Am I feeling stronger dramatic emotions by super tapping on the A button? Only in annoyance.
I do see a strong future for the genre though, and I think whatever Telltale has planned down the line for The Walking Dead may light that path. But there are bound to be growing pains, and while this game is great and wonderful in its own ways, it has its issues. But no matter what, I’ll be here for season two.
Keep that hair short.